Lydia Ko was asked how she approaches bunker shots. She gave a detailed — and helpful! — explanation
Last week, Lydia Ko had her best tournament of 2023, finishing third at the BMW Ladies Championship in Korea, where she was playing on a sponsor’s invitation.
It was a bright spot in what has been a difficult year for Ko in terms of results. Prior to the BMW, Ko hadn’t finished in the top 30 since her T6 showing at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.
Ko is still ranked 9th in the world, but her Race to the CME Globe ranking is 101 — a far cry from where she has been in years past. Only the top 60 in the ranking qualify for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., each November — a tournament she’s won twice, including last year, and where she has five other top 10 finishes. Ko has qualified for the CME every year since 2013.
With three tournaments left on the schedule ahead of the CME, Ko still has a chance to make the field, and given last week’s performance, things are looking up.
“Last week and the last couple weeks I feel like my game has progressed, and that is all I can do,” Ko said ahead of this week’s Maybank Championship in Malaysia. “I only have a few more events, three more events this season, and hopefully I’ll be able to finish my season strong and get ready for next year.”
Despite her middling results this season, one thing that hasn’t changed about Ko is her reputation for short-game prowess, and during her pre-tournament press conference in Malaysia, she was peppered with questions about how she executes her bunker shots. Ko’s thorough answers offer valuable insight for golfers of all levels.
First, Ko talked about her approach to shots from the sand.
“I think just making sure I’m in the right setup to I guess match what kind of shot I’m doing,” she said. “I like to use a lot of bounce in the bunker. Obviously if it’s super firm and like compact then that’s probably not the shot to go.
“For most parts, I think I try and stay aggressive and using the bounce,” she continued. “That wasn’t a technique I used to use as an amateur. That is something I first learned when I came to America, and playing on bermudagrass in Florida helped me a lot with that. So, yeah, I would say I just try and imagine the shot and be creative with that.”
Next, Ko went into detail on her setup.
“I think weight distribution a little bit more on the left, which is something that Sean Foley taught me. He said it’s kind of like the insurance, and then I can be as aggressive as I can making the kind of feel of the head going past the hands and using the bounce aggressively,” she said. “I think I always like to put the weight a little on the left side and from there I can just be super aggressive with it.”
Finally, Ko explained her go-to bunker practice routine.
“I think when I chip around the greens I use my 58- or 54-degree,” she said. “If I have a longer 30-, 40-yard shot in the bunker, then I might use my 50-degree on top of that or a pitching wedge.
“Just trying to be creative, and that way I don’t have to like smash my super high-lofted wedge,” she continued. “Another thing I do is draw a line right behind my ball and make sure I deliver the club as close to that line as possible, that way I’m delivering the club consistently, which means I can control the spin and the contact.”
The sand can be a tough spot to play from for players of all abilities, but with these tips from Ko, hopefully your next trip to “the beach” will be a little less stressful.
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